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Shirley Scott - 'Queen of the Organ'
Shirley Scott - 'Queen of the Organ'
Just as some athletes deprive themselves of personal glory and its ensuing riches by devoting themselves to the team effort and making other players better, so it is in Jazz – even if the fame and fortune is proportionately marginalized. Eminent Soul Jazz pioneer and undisputed Queen of the Hammond B3, Shirley Scott, certainly fits that description. Emerging on the Philadelphia scene in the mid-‘50s concurrently with the legendary Jimmy Smith, Shirley took the same boppish approach as Smith, but with considerably less bombast and flash, allowing her steady succession of soulfully wailing tenormen to step out front.

Her two most impacting musical relationships lasted from 1956-71; Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis from ‘56-60, and then Stanley Turrentine, to whom she was married for almost the entire balance of those years. Both Davis and Turrentine played some of their most heartfelt and powerful music with Shirley’s accompaniment, pushing their already high level of emotional content one notch further in her company.

Impulse’s "Shirley Scott Queen of the Organ" captures her group with Turrentine during its peak in 1964, but also adds in the exuberantly noisy excitement of being recorded live at Newark, New Jersey’s The Front Room. As one of those legendary inner city tenor/organ combo joints that are so prominent in the music’s history and the memories of those of us fortunate enough to have been there, the ambience makes the music on this CD even more meaningful as a representation of a major era. And also conveys a palpable, if somewhat slight, sense of what it was like to experience the energy firsthand.

But on its own, the music on this CD stands quite tall. Shirley holds everything together, whether driving ferociously on the old standard "Just in Time;" providing thick gospel textures on raunchfests like on "Mean, Angry, Nasty and Lowdown" and "Like Blue," two deeply grooved Scott originals (CD bonus tracks); or making sensitive, impeccably timed statements on Ellington’s "Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me") as Turrentine deep breathes the melody. There’s also a freer sense in her playing by the presence of bassist Bob Cranshaw, a very funky player whose work contributed mightily to Lee Morgan’s hugely popular "The Sidewinder." The more fluid and facile string bass allows Shirley’s pedal work to color the bottom while still keeping the drive airy.

Turrentine really thrives in this environment. An extraordinary hard-bop saxophonist, a fact often lost in light of his big commercial hits, Turrentine is able to combine the gutty passion of his earlier dates with Smith together with the fluidity of the hard-bop style in this nimbly swinging environment. Dave Burns’ loping "Rapid Shave" is a perfect example, with muscle and subtly shaded tenor work that takes great advantage of the looser rhythm format, along with Otis "Candy" Finch’s superbly buoyant drumming.

In spite of the inclusion of Lennon and McCartney’s "Can’t Buy Me Love" – a tune that simply does not lend itself to Jazz, and which gets a lot better when the melody fades - - I heartily recommend this to anyone with even the slightest taste for Soul Jazz.

George Lane

CD - Out of Stock
CD: Out of Stock


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